WEST HAVEN, CT—Use of chiropractic services at the VA rose by more than 800% between 2004 and 2015, at least partly because of the high rate of musculoskeletal injuries in recent conflicts, according to a new study.

Research published in the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics (JMPT), the official scientific journal of the American Chiropractic Association (ACA), attributes the increase to a natural growth of the chiropractic service, which was only implemented on-site at the VA in 2004.1

The VA Connecticut Healthcare System-led study also suggests the greater usage might have been prompted by the successful performance of VA chiropractors and the perceived value of their care, among other factors.

“The fact that these services have expanded consistently and substantially beyond the minimum mandated level may suggest that some VA decision-makers perceive value in providing chiropractic care,” the study noted.

The study found that:

  • the annual number of patients seen in VA chiropractic clinics increased by 821%;
  • the annual number of chiropractic visits increased by 694%;
  • the total number of chiropractic clinics grew from 27 to 65 (9% annually);
  • the number of chiropractor employees rose from 13 to 86 (21% annually); and
  • female and younger patients received chiropractic care at VA clinics at a greater rate than the national VA outpatient population.

“This demographic tendency is consistent with the cohort of veterans from the recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, which is known to have a high prevalence of musculoskeletal conditions,” study authors pointed out.

According to the report, the typical VA chiropractor employee is a 45.9-year-old man, has worked in VA for 4.5 years, and receives annual compensation of $97,860. VA also purchased care from private sector chiropractors starting in 2000, growing to 159,533 chiropractic visits for 19,435 patients at a cost of $11,155,654 annually, according to the report.

1 Lisi AJ, Brandt CA. Trends in the Use and Characteristics of Chiropractic Services in the Department of Veterans Affairs. J Manipulative Physiol Ther. 2016 Jun;39(5):381-6. doi: 10.1016/j.jmpt.2016.04.005. PubMed PMID: 27288324.